Will online marketing be fully automated?
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Written by Bartek Bezemer

About the author
I want you to get more out of your online marketing by helping you learn from the greats and give you practical tips.

May 2, 2020

Robots who automate jobs away are circling the news for quite a while, but does this also impact online marketing? 

When working in the online field, you’re drifting off to news sites every now and again or see LinkedIn posts in your feed that herald the demise of the human workforce. As a tech enthusiast myself, I witness how fast technology is progressing, which makes me stop and think about whether I am next in line. Heck, even the tools we as online marketers use on a daily basis to do our jobs feel like they are becoming smarter everyday and might just run our campaigns for us. 

The ongoing job automation over the centuries

According to a study performed in 2013 by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, 47% of all US jobs are at risk of being automated. And this job automation happens across all industries. In the past you had odd jobs such as pinsetters in bowling alleys, knocker-ups who acted as modern day alarm clocks, elevator operators or ice cutters. All jobs are absolute due to technological advancements.

When we look at current jobs, there are jobs that are just ready to be automated any minute. In the top 5 we have data entry keyers, cargo and freight agents, mathematical technicians, library technicians and insurance underwriters. Mathematics and data can be replaced through computer algorithms. Libraries are a rarity nowadays and resources can be easily found online, instead of running to the nearest library. I remember the time when you went to the library to browse the internet, which isn’t that long ago. 

In the field of marketing, marketing managers have a 1.4% of being automated with a projected rate of automation of 9% by 2024. Advertising and promotions managers only have an automation risk of 4% in line with graphic designers who have an 8% chance. Telemarketers are pulling the short end of the stick with 99% of automation within the next two decades. AI voice assistants will be able to mimic human voices up to a level that they are indistinguishable from humans and give more relevant answers than any human could. 

Telemarketers are pulling the short end of the stick with 99% of automation within the next two decades

Marketing is multidisciplinary, a creative field which serves an integrated role within a company, connecting different aspects of a business to drive growth. Online marketing operates in the same manner, it uses aspects of business operations, visual language and customer interaction to meet business targets. A managerial style so to speak. 

The previous numbers reveal that creativity is a factor that is very difficult to automate. According to IBM there are many hurdles to overcome to insert creativity into Artificial Intelligence. Humans use a complex hierarchical system of learning and exploring, from which its inner workings are still unknown. IBM is, as of now, not in the business of replicating humans, but trying to automate the mundane. Think of our previous example, the data entry keyer. A mundane job, that does not spark the full potential of a creative mind such as ours. 

Will Marketing automation take my job?

Marketing automation is a hot topic on every online marketing event you’ll ever go to. I’ll admit I’ve seen suppliers take a more humble stance in recent years, but they are certainly present. Vendors promise never lifting a finger once implemented. Leads are automatically detected, tagged, categorized and flung into the perfect sales funnel. Waiting to be converted through content. Your job is done right after implementation. You’re literally jobless. No company will ever need your services. Or is it?

I’ve sat down many times with marketing automation vendors, and the tools themselves sound very promising to say the least, but when it comes down to implementation, it becomes eerily quiet. Making a marketing automation tool successful, requires a lot of development research, content creation and testing of all sales funnels. Many departments need to be aligned to make the dream work. Connecting all different tools that are operational, or migrating them to the tool, can be a painstaking endeavour. Not to mention the costs, that for small companies aren’t justifiable. 

Marketing automation also falls in a privacy grey zone as it does a lot of profiling to serve the most relevant content. Tools such as these, can be easily subverted through ad blockers. Browsers such as Firefox and Brave block tracking cookies by default, making it extra hard to identify visitors, severely decreasing the effectiveness of marketing automation. 

AI creeping into online marketing tools

Long term users of tools such as Google Analytics and Google Ads, might have noticed that features are cropping up that help the marketer along. Intelligence events, revealing sudden peaks or dips in traffic. Or full blown machine learning mobile ad campaigns, leaving just the creatives and simple bidding to the end user. This will make you wonder and think to yourself “will everybody be able to create ads on the fly? Will I become obsolete within my current job?”

From a business perspective, this is a very smart move as more and more users will be able to use Google ad services. But, the question arises, will the SEA expert become a thing of the past? 

Being an expert within a field can be a double edged sword, as you are highly capable of completing your task and you are a source of wisdom for fellow industry professionals. On the flip side, you are capable of only completing one task. That makes you vulnerable for change as you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. I believe branching out in the online marketing field is necessary to stay relevant as tools become smarter every day, leaving you in their trail of dust. 

Getting your act together and preparing for the future

The saying goes that in online marketing your knowledge is worth only six months, after that some new features, tools and technologies are introduced that will make the previous absolute. This means you have to take a long and hard look at yourself and pledging to yourself you will always learn, keep tinkering on your knowledge to reach new levels of expertise. Be open to change, because the future will look radically different in a decade from here. Could you ever have imagined in 2005 that we would be so immersed in our phones that a whole industry of mobile application developers came to be? 

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